Back in Time is ED’s newspaper-like column that reports an incident from the past as though it had happened just yesterday. It allows the reader to relive it several years later, on the date it had occurred.

December 12, 1911: Delhi Durbar witnessed an audience of 2,50,000 people. Dignitaries ranging from the Begum of Bhopal to the highest British administrative officials attended the coronation ceremony of King George V and Queen Mary.

The magnanimous setup of 40,000 tents across 25 sq miles in North Delhi was built over the last few months. The Indian government had sponsored £700,000 for the festival on King George V’s order. A special sanitary zone area was also made for the King and Queen.

The extensive jewellery and clothes worn by the British and Indian royalties awed the audience.

Trumpeteers from the British and Indian army band rarely kept the ambience sombre. The zealous voices of the crowd could be heard way past Jame-e-masjid.

Guards from the 3rd Battalion KRRC and the 4th Battalion patrolled the whole Durbar from time to time to negate any form of interruption. A special small amphitheatre was built for the royal guests and administrative officials. The civilians and military troops sat at the large amphitheatre.

The astounding performance of the trumpeters and bands made the Durbar lively.

According to sources, the throne chair at which the British monarch sat was cast by melting 96,000 silver rupees. The Calcutta Royal Mint constructed these chairs for the Durbar.

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Sir Henry McMahon commenced the ceremony. After the King’s welcome address, at the double-platform pavilion in the centre, the Indian royalties gave homages to the British royals.

Some bowed while the Rajput Kings laid their swords by the feet of the monarch. Brigadier-General Peyton read the Royal proclamation in English while Captain Hayat Khan translated it to Urdu.

The Nizam of Hyderabad paid homage to the King and Queen.

The crowd felt immense relief at the announcement regarding the reversal of the 1905 partition of Bengal decision. But they were left equally shocked when King George V announced the shift of capital from Calcutta to Delhi.

The Announcement By King George V

“We are pleased to announce to our people that on the advice of our ministers, tendered after consultation with our Governor-General-in-Council, we have decided upon the transfer of the seat of the Government of India, from Calcutta to the ancient capital of Delhi..”– King George V

Alongside announcements were made for providing grants for promotion of studies, relief of prisoners and increase in salary of Civil Service officers and military personnel.

The Indian royalties by the custom of Durbar bowed three times to the British royals at the end of the ceremony. The crowd left the Durbar with murmurs about the sudden announcement of the new shift of capital.

The ceremony concluded with the walk of the King and Queen from the shamiana towards the Royal Pavillion.

Post Scriptum

The grand Durbar acted as a statement of the bureaucracy of the British empire against India. The obeisance of Indian royalties alluded to their limited independent agency in colonial India. After the announcement, Lord Curzon deemed the decision unconstitutional. Minto pointed out that the Anglo-Indian authorities in England and provincial heads of India’s consultation were necessary.

The strategic shift influenced the Europeanization of thought and trade. The colonial government couldn’t apply the “divide and rule” policy widespread with the legislation of partition of Bengal in 1905. 

The Swadeshi movement rising in Bengal was garnering support from different regions in India since 1905. The British government was desperate to put an end to the growing spirit of nationalism in Bengal. The capital shift was strategic without the involvement of Indian provincial leaders. 

The colonial forces also wanted to amplify their glory just as the Mughal empire, even more than that. Delhi was not the hub of commercial trade when the announcement was made. After the announcement, it became powerful as a centre of colonial commerce and political navigation slowly.

On February 13, 1931, it was inaugurated as the capital state by Lord Irwin after the construction of the city. So what we see today as the capital of India is the byproduct of conventional colonial politics. 

Image Credits: Google Photos & The Heritage Lab

Source: India CultureThe Heritage Lab, YouTube

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This post is tagged under: George V, Delhi Durbar, Durbar 1911, Capital shift, Calcutta, Delhi, December 12, Back In Time, On this Day, History, India, the British Empire, Lord Curzon, Viceroy, Begam Of Bhopal, Bengal Nationalism, Colonial India

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